The tattered burlap sack lifted violently off his head, revealing a face so battered and bruised, that Clive was hardly recognizable to anyone who knew him. The overhead lamp, hanging from a chain suspended from the ceiling, swayed back and forth, in a circular motion. The light cast a spotlight across the concrete floor and up the stone walls. Countless dust particles, displaying their own universe of suspended vitality, came alive when encountering the light. It took Clive several minutes to make out his environment.
“Make sure to double-up on the wrists,” Tony stated. “He’s a big one, we wouldn’t want the bastard running off on us before Rob gets here, now would we?”
“He don’t scare me none,” Kim scoffed, as he stretched out the duct tape, winding it around Clive’s wrists – he flinched as the tape clamped on tight and cut off the circulation in his hands.
“Alright,” Tony said. “I’m going to do you a solid, big man. You’re going to tell me where that rat-bastard brother of yours is hiding, and I’ll spare you any further beating Rob will want to unleash on you when he gets here.” Clive’s head slumped forward, the swelling around his face seemed to add weight to it, pulling it down. His breathing was labored as his chest rose and fell. Kim landed an open palm to the side of his face when there was no answer.
“Answer the man!” he demanded. He dug his thumb into the massive lump under his right eye. Clive pulled away in pain, but Kim chased it with bad intentions.
“That’s enough,” Tony said. “He’s half-dead already from the work you did on him earlier.” He walked over to him and lifted his head, grasping a handful of hair. “Where is the rat? We’re going to find him one way or the other, save yourself the punishment. He doesn’t seem to care all that much that his baby brother is getting the living daylights kicked out of him, why should you care about keeping him safe? Brothers my ass!”
Clive swallowed. “You won’t find him,” he said, struggling to speak. “I’m the only one who knows where he is, and I’m willing to die three times over for him, you coward piece of shit!” He managed to give off a smirk from the corner of his mouth, though it was barely visible from the swelling.
Tony joined in on his amusement. “Well, we might just have to do that then, won’t we?” He turned to Kim, gesturing him to get the duffle bag from the trunk of the car outside the warehouse. Kim smiled with delight and ran off to retrieve it.
“Let’s just see how much of that brotherly love is inside that big frame of yours, shall we?” He removed his leather coat and placed it on top of some wooden crates. He rolled up his sleeves halfway up his forearms. “I ain’t no monster, I’ll have you know. People say that I’m a good egg, so if you want to reconsider, I’ll tell Kimmy there to put his toys back where he got them, and we’ll play nice. What do you say?” No answer came from Clive. Only his breathing grew, preparing himself for whatever was coming. “Suit yourself, sweet brother. Suit yourself!”
Kim returned with a bag in hand, rattling with heavy metal objects inside. “Can I do it?” he said, setting the bag on a metal table. The bag made a loud clunk. He unzipped it and rummaged through the contents hidden inside.
“Why not,” Tony said. “I’d like to see you break this one. Let’s start with something simple,” he pondered, rasping his whiskers under his chin. “I know, start with the toes.”
Kim raised his finger with excitement. “Excellent idea Tony!” He rummaged some more, then pulled out a pair of rusty bow cutters. He exercised their handles, loosening up its rusty movements into manageable strokes. “Right!” Kim continued. “Let’s get started.”
Clive’s sneakers came off, followed by his socks. He squirmed in his seat, trying to pull his ankles away from Kim’s hands trying to take hold of them. The duct tape that bound to his legs was serving its purpose, limiting his movements.
“Easy now,” Kim protested. “Take it easy, it will only hurt for a minute or two.” He belted out a sinister laugh. He grasped the handles in each hand and positioned the blades between his small toe. Clive attempted to wiggle it free, but Kim clamped the blades together, locking the toe in place. He looked up at him, smiling and displaying his discolored teeth. “Here we go, big boy!”
The bow cutters began to close, the small toe rose and straightened as the blades cut into it. Clive grunted, then followed up with a painful yell. Kim stopped momentarily and allowed the pain to pass to normal levels, before squeezing the handles again. Clive jerked and convulsed the deeper the blades sliced through his flesh. When it was over, the small toe flew off and bounced off into the darkness. Kim yelped a yee-haw and went scrambling for the severed toe. Tears ran down the sides of Clive’s face, burning his open wounds.
“The rat, where is he?” Tony said. “Well do this all night if we have to. Tell us, and well make this quick.” Clive took deep, long breaths. His fingers digging into the wooden chair handles that he was strapped into. He didn’t say a word. Tony observed him and was taken back by his willingness to not give his brother up. “You got to be kidding me?” he continued. “Fine, have it your way.” He gestured to Kim to proceed. He approached Clive with the cutters in one hand, the small toe in the other, dangling it between his thumb and forefinger. He laughed, enjoying the whole process.
The next three toes came off with excruciating pain, and each time, Clive refused to give them what they wanted. But the pain was too much to bear, and he began to fade in and out of consciousness. Tony instructed Kim to stop.
“Stubborn bastard!” he said, lighting up a cigarette. “Anyone else would have spilled it by now, it appears we underestimated our brawny friend.”
“He’ll talk!” Kim said, unconvinced of Clive’s willingness to remain silent. “A couple more toes, and he’ll squeal like a pig! You’ll see.”
“No,” Tony said, taking a long drag off the cigarette. “We need to step it up, grab the hammer, let’s smash every bone in his pretty little hands.”
“That works too!” He turned and walked over to the bag to locate the hammer.
Tony kneeled by Clive and examined the damage done to his face. “You’re really gonna make me smash every bone in your hands?” He took another drag, slowly blowing the smoke in his face. “You are, aren’t you? Shit, you should have joined our crew, you would have fit right in with the pair of cojones you’re carrying!” He extinguished the cigarette on the floor by his severed toes, then rose to his feet. “Go on, get it over with.” Kim approached Clive, the hammer gripped in his hand.
The flat face of the hammer came down hard, landing on top of the back of Clive’s hand. The sound of bones shattering through the skin sounded, Clive screamed in agony, shifting back and forth in the chair as if there was an electric current running through it.
“Again,” Tony instructed him. And again, the hammer came down, crushing bone even further. It continued for a while, each time with brutal force. Clive’s tolerance finally gave way, blacking out from the blows. Streaks of sweat rolled down Kim’s forehead.
“Alright, stop it!” Tony said. “What the hell is wrong with this guy? What is it going to take for him to talk?”
“Son of a bitch is tougher than I thought,” Kim finally admitted. “We need to switch this up,” his mind began searching for a solution. “I know, lets pop one of his eyes out! I bet he’ll talk then.”
“Are you insane?” Tony replied. “He’ll be in pieces by the time Rob gets he if we start dismembering him, they’ll be nothing left of him! And if we can’t get him to talk, Rob will have our eyes plucked out.”
“You have a better idea? Because…?” Tony recognized what he was getting at. Whatever methods he was using wasn’t getting the job done, and Rob was expecting an answer when he arrived.
“Dammit!” he said, finally. “get the clamp!” He pulled out another cigarette from his breast pocket and popped it in his mouth. He lit it and allowed the toxins to do their job.
“He’ll talk, you’ll see,” Kim said, his tone full of confidence.
“Hey!” Tony said, kicking the side of the chair. “Wake up!” he slapped him gently on the cheek. “Do you understand what’s about to happen? Were gonna pop your fucking eyeball out of your face, do you understand? You ready for that?”
There were very few movements coming from Clive. Tony slapped him harder.
“Answer me!” he said. Clive lifted his head slowly, forcing his swollen eye open.
“You’re going to have to kill me,” he said. He breathed in heavily. His relentless boldness angered Tony, turning his ears into a red rage. He grabbed a handful of his hair, a mix of sweat and blood splattered on his face as he yanked back on it.
“Then that’s exactly what I’ll do!” he released his hold on him with a hard jerk. “Kim, do it slowly, let him squirm in his hollow pride!”
“You got it boss, nice and slow.” Kim grabbed him by the hair, pulling his head back. With his other hand, he held a metal clamp, his fingers inserted and gripped tight. He positioned each end on the corners of his bruised and bulging eye. Clive winced at the touch of the steel against his skin. He pressed the metal deep into his eye socket, causing him to shake his head violently. The clamp pressed deeper and deeper, leaving very little room for both the clamps and the eyeball. Slowly, the eye began to rise from its base, like yeast in a hot oven. Clive screamed and groaned in agony. Tony called out to Kim to stop.
“Talk!” Tony said. When nothing but moans came out of him, he gestured to Kim to proceed. The thrashing continued for a while. When the pain got to be too much, he blacked out, only to be brought back from the twisting of the metal clamp digging into his flesh.
“Talk damn you!” Tony continued. Kim twisted and squeezed. Clive’s eye suddenly popped out of its frame and dangled from its ligaments against his bruised face. His convulsions made Tony’s stomach churn, but he kept it from showing.
“Stop!” Clive finally said. “Stop, I’ll talk! I’ll talk, just stop!”
The redness dissipated from Tony’s ears, relief rushed through him like living streams. He tapped Kim on the shoulder, waving him to back off. He stood over him, observing how the eyeball rolled back and forth, dangling from the dark hole where it used to be lodged in place.
“Alright,” Tony said. “Start talking.”
Clive’s words struggled to come out, he felt faint, his head swayed from side to side. Tony grabbed him by the throat and squeezed.
“Talk!” he said, frustrated.
“…Deli…..Maloney….Maloney’s Deli,” he said. The words seemed to drag out forever.
“The Deli?” Tony said. “He’s at the Deli?” Maloney’s Deli was no more than a couple blocks away from the warehouse. All the intel they had gathered led them to believe that the person they were looking for had fled to another state. California perhaps, maybe Arizona. But the Deli? They would have never guessed it in a million years.
“Call the boys,” he said to Kim. “Tell them to bring me that piece of shit alive immediately! The boss will be here at any moment, he’s gonna expect us to have some good news.” He tightened his hand around his throat again. “He better be there,” he said. “Or you’re not going to like what body part comes out next!”
Twenty-five minutes later, Tony’s cell rang. He answered impatiently. “Tell me something?” he said. The silence on the other end felt long and torturous.
“We got him,” a voice came through. “He fought, but we have him, were on our way to you now.” The phone hung up. Total and absolute relief spread throughout the dim room.
“They got him?” Kim asked.
“They got him,” Tony confirmed. “They’re on their way.” He walked over to Clive and patted him on the head. “You see, was that so hard? Now you got an eye hanging out of your face, and for what? I told you, we were going to get him no matter what, you big dumb bastard.”
Suddenly lights beamed through the windows, a car approached, the tires rolled over dirt and gravel, coming to a stop in front of the entrance gates.
“Is that them?” Tony said. “Go check.” Kim approached the window, squinting from the bright light against his eyes.
“No,” he said. “It’s the boss.”
“Shit,” Tony said. “Alright, watch your words, who knows what type of mood he might be in.”
The sheet metal door rattled open, and Rob walked through the doorway. Two men were with him, he instructed them to remain outside and keep watch. He approached the two men calmly – They both couldn’t tell if it was a good or bad sign.
“I don’t see a rat in front of me, Tony,” he said, his tone was like ice. “I assume you have a location or that he’s in one of these rooms. Which is it?”
“We have him, the boys are on their way now.”
Rob looked over at Clive’s battered body. “By the looks of that eye, I’m assuming he was determined not to talk?”
“It took some experimenting, but its nothing we couldn’t handle,” Tony said, trying to make it sound easier than it really was. Kim looked at him, watching him squirm uncomfortably within himself.
Rob walked over to Clive and stared at him momentarily.
“Your brother is a rat,” he said. “I don’t know who protects a rat? Brother or not.” He leaned in on him. “Maybe you’re a rat too? Rats are known to stick together. What do you think Tony?”
Tony knew Clive did what he did out of love for his brother. He was his blood, and no matter what, Blood was thicker than water. But in this business, with these types of people, that way of life didn’t exist. He said the only thing he knew to say. “Once a rat, always a rat, boss.”
“Damn right he is!” He reached behind his back and pulled out a pistol from his waistband. He aimed and emptied the clip into Clive’s chest. His body burst open with every shot, leaving him limp after the gunfire ceased its chaos. Rob spit on him, turning away from him with disgust in his expression. Tony and Kim looked at their boss who didn’t hesitate to take the man’s life. Tony wondered what his reaction would of been towards them if they failed to deliver the man they sought. Rob stared them both down, his eyes reaffirming who it was they should fear. He exercised his jaw, like a boxer about to trade gloves. He bit his lips, leaving a temporary white impression before they regained their color once more.
“One rat down,” he said. “One more to go.”